MilFam Travel: 10 Things to Do Near Fort Hood
Fort Hood is the country’s largest active duty armored post. Located halfway between Waco and Austin in Texas, this 340-square foot installation is home to the state’s largest single-site employer.
Whether you’re a MilSpouse who has been living in Fort Hood for years or you’ve just been reassigned, this area’s bustling population means that there’s no shortage of things to do.
Ready to experience some Central Texas charm? Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
1. Go on a Hike
MilSpouses looking to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors can lace up their hiking boots and take to the Texas trails.
Lucky for you, Killeen is located directly southeast of Fort Hood and is known as the gateway to Texas’ scenic hill country. Traverse the area’s two man-made lakes when you embark on a variety of hiking trails.
Just a 25-minute drive east of Killeen, you’ll stumble upon Chalk Ridge Falls. Featuring five miles of trails, waterfall views, and a charming cable bridge, this Belton hiking destination is ideal for an active day trip. Hike the trails right along the river basin for waterfront views, or opt for the upper-level area with wooden steps.
Note: If you plan on visiting in the summer, go early in the morning before it gets hot! Hiking in the midst of the Texas heat can be extremely dangerous. The ideal hiking season is October through May.
2. Paint & Sip
If your idea of fun leans more towards the creative (with a side of wine), head over to Painting With a Twist in Harker Heights. Just a 10- to 15-minute drive away, this artsy establishment invites patrons to try their hand at painting — BYOB available for those 21+!
Keep in mind, this is an adult activity, and isn’t one where the kids can get involved. You must be 15 years or older to attend classes Monday through Thursday, and 18 years or older to attend classes on Friday and Saturday. The current price is $35 for two hours or $45 for three hours.
3. Road Trip
With year-round training occurring, Fort Hood can get a little noisy sometimes — helicopters, tankers, construction… the list goes on. That’s why it’s never a bad idea to skip town for a little while! Fort Hood is conveniently located in Central Texas, so there are plenty of nearby destinations that are perfect for a mini road trip.
A few suggestions include:
Texas’ capital is home to some of the best food and attractions in the country. MilSpouses looking to refresh can head to Barton Springs Pool for a relaxing dip. This spring-fed pool is consistently 68-70 degrees, making it a perfect place to post up on a sunny afternoon. The three-acre body of water is located at Zilker Park which is also home to Zilker Botanical Garden and Umlauf Sculpture Garden. If you’re looking for something more active, rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak and navigate the still waters of Lady Bird Lake.
While you’re in Austin, you’ll want to pose in front of the famous “I love you so much” wall for a prime Instagram opportunity. Once you’ve snapped the perfect picture (#nofilter), snag a quick bite at South Congress Cafe for southern comfort food and a retro ambiance (just a one-minute walk south on S. Congress). If you’re more of a “dessert first” type of person, stop into Amy’s Ice Cream right around the corner for a creative confection.
Another mini road trip option is home to a place HGTV fans will be quite familiar with — Magnolia Market at the Silos. This indoor/outdoor market is beaming with down-home, farmhouse charm. Pick up a classic piece for your home or indulge in a buttery biscuit at Silos Baking Co. Even though you’re an hour north of Fort Hood, Waco will make you feel right at home.
4. Indulge in Texas’ finest fare
Fortunately, living in Texas means you have a world of delicious Tex-Mex cuisine right at your fingertips — or on your fingertips!
If you haven’t yet indulged in a Texas kolache, head to Shipley Do-Nuts. These decadent pastries are filled with either fruit or a combination of meat and cheese. Snag one of these and a coffee to start your day, or save room for lunch at Tex-Rican, a neighborhood staple for authentic Puerto Rican comfort food.
For those times when you’re feeling a little thirsty, hit up one of the city’s drive-through daiquiri bars. Of course, you should wait to indulge once you’re back home. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, head to Unwind! and treat yourself to a wine tasting and charcuterie board.
5. Mini Golf
MilSpouses with kiddos will want to check out Lunar Mini Golf in Killeen. This neon, glow-in-the-dark experience takes about 45 minutes, but staff will likely let you play two 18-hole rounds.
Located at the Killeen Mall, Lunar Mini Golf is a perfect rainy-day activity for players of all ages. Locals have said this is a great pick for date night, too!
6. Topsey Exotic Ranch & Drive-Through Park
If your idea of a zoo is a little more up close and personal, meander over to Topsey Exotic Ranch & Drive-Through Park in Copperas Cove. Featuring more than 50 species from six continents, visitors meet a wide variety of animals, from giant buffalo, zebras, and camels, to ostriches peacocks, and turtles.
Note that the animals are extremely friendly and are not afraid to approach your vehicle. This presents the perfect opportunity for an up-close selfie.
Military discounts are available, but only if purchased on post.
7. Luv 2 Play
This is yet another option for MilSpouse mamas with young kids. Luv 2 Play features 6,200 square feet of playgrounds, arcade games, and kiddy rides.
This is a great solution for bad-weather days over the summer when kids need somewhere to expel their energy. Luv 2 Play offers something for every age group, whether your child is just learning to walk or can navigate the arcade games solo.
There’s also a cafe area where parents can grab a coffee, connect to wifi, and relax while their kids are busy playing.
8. Great Escape of Central Texas
Ready for a challenge? Gather a group of friends and book a room at Great Escape of Central Texas.
Participants are constantly tested by this action-adventure game as they find clues and solve tricky puzzles. Choose from several fun and challenging rooms with themes like Harry Potter, Clue, and The Cabin, and race against the clock as you try to escape within the 60-minute time limit.
9. Mayborn Science Theatre
Located on the campus of Central Texas College, Mayborn Science Theatre takes visitors on a journey through time and space. The facility features a 60-foot digital dome display, bringing onlookers high-definition images of the night sky and beyond.
Families can enjoy the planetarium or attend a laser show in the movie theatre. Keep in mind, the theatre is closed June 9 – July 15 for renovations — so get your visit in beforehand, or hang tight until the updates are finished.
10. 1st Cavalry Division Museum
This list would be incomplete without including one of the area’s top Military museums. Featuring artifacts, rich history, and a cozy gift shop, this is an ideal activity for families looking to dive into Military history a little bit deeper.
Outside, you’ll stumble upon Military vehicles, tanks, and helicopters, while the inside installments offer rich information and a scavenger hunt for kids.
No matter how long you’re in Fort Hood, there’s plenty to see and do. Enjoy your time in the Lone Star State!
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